MPH Project Proposal Defense: Karie Kvandal
Advisor/Chair: Dr. Barbara Curbow
Committee Members: Dr. Sharon Desmond
Title: Implications of News Media in Attitudes Toward Firearms: A Content Analysis of News Media Framing After A Mass Shooting
Intentional firearm violence in the United States is a leading cause of premature death. Firearms accounted for over 30,000 deaths and an additional 80,000 injuries in 2014 (CDC, 2016). While mass shootings account for less than 1% of all homicides (CDC 2016), they are often highly publicized and account for more press coverage than any other firearm violence event (Lytle, 2016). The media play a significant role in the perception of such events. First, according to cognitive heuristics, the more dramatic and visual the coverage, the more likely consumers are to overestimate their occurrence (Pachur, Hertwig, & Steinmann, 2012). Second, the media plays a large role in influencing attitudes and beliefs toward firearms (Sorenson, Manz, & Berk, 1998). Additional evidence suggests media coverage of various health topics has the potential to influence health behavior (McCaw, McGlade, & McElnay, 2014). Third, news sources serve as a primary resource to learn about health and health care topics with readers often depending on news reports, especially online news reports, for information when other sources, such as medical professionals and websites, are not readily available (McCauley, Blake, Meissner, & Viswanath, 2013). For these reasons, news publishers and journalists are in a unique position to provide health information to consumers. This project will consist of a systematic content analysis of 200 newspaper articles published during two time intervals (early and late) after the Pulse Nightclub Mass Shooting on June 12, 2016. The purposes of this research are to determine: if news media coverage of a highly publicized mass shooting is factually correct, if policy recommendations are proposed, if tone and content changes over time, and if health constructs, specifically perceived health risks and cues to action, are employed.